- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) — Two industry groups are spearheading a public-awareness campaign to drum up more state dollars for road building.

The Virginia Road and Transportation Builders Association and the Virginia Aggregates Association are joining forces to raise between $850,000 and $1 million for the statewide effort.

“We must elevate the public’s understanding about the dire need for substantially increased, dedicated, sustainable revenues for transportation construction and maintenance,” states a letter sent out to potential donors this month.

Virginia’s “transportation crisis is damaging the business community and impeding economic development across the state,” the letter said.

The budget passed by the General Assembly this year contained no new money for transportation, despite attempts by some lawmakers to include more funding.

“We should have been able to look at the future of transportation and come up with some funding that would have at least helped out with our transportation initiatives,” said Richard D. Daugherity, executive vice president of the road-builders association.

The idea for a broad-based coalition that would promote the issue aggressively started before the overtime assembly ended in June. Advocates hope to bring transportation to the forefront of the next session.

“Once transportation was dropped, it became obviously clear we were going to have to do something soon,” Mr. Daugherity said.

The groups plan to wage a grass-roots campaign that will include town hall meetings and “underscore the importance of transportation” in the everyday lives of voters, the letter said.

In the effort’s first week, the groups have received pledges of $170,000.

State Sen. John C. Watkins, Powhatan Republican and a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, called the group’s education campaign “entirely appropriate” because most citizens don’t realize how transportation is funded.

“It has been, in my estimation, underfunded for about the past six years, and I think any kind of awareness program is probably appropriate and helpful,” Mr. Watkins said.


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